Akali-Cong slugfest turns ugly, AAP’s Khaira suspended over Facebook live from House
From the Aam Aadmi Party stable, Sukhpal Singh Khaira was suspended for the rest of the session till June 23 for going live in video on Facebook from inside the House in a bid to underline the commotion caused the Akalis and Congresspunjab Updated: Jun 17, 2017 16:19 IST
Continuous anti-government sloganeering for at least 55 minutes by Akali MLAs, followed by pushing and shoving between Akali and Congress MLAs, marked the third day of the Punjab assembly’s budget session, on Friday. From the Aam Aadmi Party stable, Sukhpal Singh Khaira was suspended for the rest of the session till June 23 for going live in video on Facebook from inside the House in a bid to underline the commotion caused the Akalis and Congress.
Congress MLA Inderbir Singh Bolaria and Akali MLA Kanwarjit Singh Rozy Barkandi pushed each other as other MLAs of the two parties also joined in manhandling others in the Vidhan Sabha well after the first adjournment for 30 minutes. Parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra, MLA Randeep Singh Nabha and other members intervened to save the situation from turning worse. Heated exchanges continued.
But the Akali tirade in the house went on minus their top three leaders – former CM Parkash Singh Badal, his son and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, and former revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia — for a second day. Former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa led the Akali MLAs.
Immediately as the proceedings began with the election of Ajaib Singh Bhatti as deputy speaker, the Akalis jumped to the well, demanding a loan waiver for farmers and also raised slogans against irrigation and power minister Rana Gurjit Singh for allegedly taking sand mines in an auction in the name of proxies. This continued for one hour along with the normal House work.
Perturbed over the unabated slogan-raising, CM Capt Amarinder Singh got up and said, “I feel no pressure with such tactics,” asking Akali MLAs to go back to their seats. The CM even issued a threat, telling Akali MLAs not to raise “much noise”, or he would “disclose the list of 10 Akali MLAs who have got sand mines in the auction”.
“In your (Akali-BJP) tenure, too, farmers committed suicide; then you took no action. Now, only three months of my government have passed, and you have started raising slogans. Our party has promised a debt waiver, and we are working on it. Wait for the budget,” the CM said.
The Akalis abided to the CM’s call. Earlier, BJP MLA Som Parkash had approached the CM, telling him that the Akali-BJP MLAs would stop sloganeering after an assurance on debt waiver.
Later, AAP’s Khaira became the second MLA to be suspended from the House for the remainder of the session, following ally Lok Insaaf Party’s Simarjeet Singh Bains who was suspended on Thursday for throwing papers at the speaker.
When Khaira turned reporter
Action against Khaira came after he uploaded a four-minute video of the ruckus in the House after the Akalis disrupted proceedings over farm debt waiver.
Speaker Rana KP Singh ordered marshals to seize Khaira’s mobile phone and named him twice, which means he was suspended for the session.
“The Punjab assembly has been reduced to worse than a pendu (village) panchayat by the Akalis and the Congress. Here is a live coverage of the drama in the House. Take a look,” he said in Punjabi when the assembly was adjourned within an hour of the meeting. “You can see Aam Aadmi Party sitting silently on benches, while Akali and Congress MLAs are arguing, sitting on the floor. What did the Akalis do for farmers during their 10-year rule?” he said.
The formality of the suspension came on a resolution moved by parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra against Khaira “for violating decorum of the House by recording a video clip inside of the House and posting it up his Facebook page”.
The speaker, without seeking an explanation from Khaira, announced the orders, “I name you, I name you.” Raising an objection, AAP MLAs then staged a walkout. The speaker announced a second adjournment at this.
“I have done no wrong, what I did was during the time when the House was adjourned. it calls for no privilege motion,” Khaira said, “Congress MLAs, when in opposition (during SAD-BJP regime), used to do the same... The speaker is biased. Leave aside giving opposition time to speak, he doesn’t even look towards the opposition.”
Sidhu causes commotion
Earlier, during the question-answer session, the speaker adjourned the House as local bodies and tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, while answering a question from Congress MLA Harminder Singh Gill, started bashing the Badals, at which the 12 Akali MLAs and one from BJP walked in close to Sidhu in objection.
To avoid any untoward situation, marshal surrounded Sidhu. When the situation went out of control, the speaker adjourned the house at 10.55am for 30 minutes.
“They made 650 buses of their companies run on Punjab roads, but caused loss of Rs 350 crore to the PRTC. The Badals started an amphibious bus in the Harike wetland which was a flop, as farmers’ land got submerged due to extra water released to run the bus,” said Sidhu.
Bhatti elected deputy speaker, ‘indebted to CM’
The House opened with legislators unanimously electing Congress MLA from Malout, Ajaib Singh Bhatti, a Dalit leader, as deputy speaker of the 15th Vidhan Sabha. Bhatti said his family and he were indebted to CM Amarinder Singh who recommended him for the coveted post.
Amarinder congratulated Bhatti for his elevation and said that Bhatti’s long administrative and political experience would further enhance the glory of the august chair.
He said that politics was in Bhatti’s blood, as he inherited it from his father late Arjan Singh, who contested assembly election from the erstwhile combined constituency Nihal Singh Wala in 1957.
Amarinder said he was confident that Bhatti would add to the prestige of the office of deputy speaker.
Bhatti, a third time MLA, has won the last three polls in a row, twice from Bhucho seat in 2007 and 2012, and Malout in 2017.
The chief minister mentioned that Bhatti’s career was quite diversified, as he started his professional journey as a teacher in rural areas of Bathinda besides working as a block development and panchayat officer (BDPO) for nearly a year.
He joined Punjab Civil Services (executive branch) in 1984 and served in various magisterial and civilian assignments in different parts of the state. Bhatti resigned as additional secretary, education, in 2007 to contest from Bhucho.